Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Peter's mother in law, continued

We looked at the gospel accounts yesterday, and we could see that Jesus performed a miracle after leaving the synagogue in Peter and Andrew's village. He came to their house, and Peter's mother-in-law was very ill. Jesus took her hand, and helped her up -- the fever immediately left her, and she regained her energy and strength, as well!

She got up and the gospels say that she "served them." She was so fully restored, and in such health, that she was able to do the things that hospitality required . . . she probably tended to her guests, and helped them get some of the dust of the road off, from their walk. She probably made certain that they were comfortable -- maybe showed them to the rooftop, where they could sit and talk, and any breeze that came by would be appreciated. And then I bet that she went to prepare a meal for them, joyful in her regained health, and in the fact that the Master was at their house.

Speaking of their house, we should notice that this miracle happened in a private place. A small place. A home. Not a large auditorium or amphitheater. This was an act of compassion and of love, and it was done in a simple home. Get my drift? How many of the folks who purport to be healers today would be content to do this? Would those modern people who call themselves faith healers be content to make house calls? Or do they trumpet and call public attention to themselves? Many of them exploit the desperate, hurting people who come to them. Their thoughts are of gain and profit, and they seem to contrast very much with Christ's example of compassion here.

Another thing to note is that it is wrong to assume that every person who suffers with a sickness or a disease is suffering because of some sin in their lives.  Sickness is also permitted, allowed by God for His glory, and so that His Son is glorified, also.
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

According to Luke's account, after the miracle, the word traveled quickly. I would imagine that many of the friends and neighbors who had been so concerned, and praying for Peter's mom in law, would now be rejoicing, praising God, and blessing Him -- bringing glory to His name, and to Jesus, His Son.
Also in Luke, it says that Jesus stayed at Peter's house after the meal. After sunset, the people began to arrive at the house, bringing with them, all of the people who were sick.
At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. (Luke 4:40)

Why did they wait? Why did they only come after sunset? We have to understand their perspective here. We know that this was their Sabbath, and it was unlawful to carry anything. Including the sick people who needed the touch of the Savior. The Jewish "day" ends at sundown, so as soon as the sun went down, they bundled up their sick and suffering and brought them to Christ.

Luke again gives us two wonderful notes here . . . Jesus had just demonstrated His power, in that He could heal with just a word.  But Luke is very careful to tell us that Jesus did something unusual in this situation. He says that He laid His hands on every one of them. The scholars say that there is no mention of hands-on-healing in the rabbinical literature, and it's not in the Old Testament, either. Jesus was using a radically new and different means -- and each person that evening felt the loving touch of the Savior's hands. Secondly, Luke states that Jesus "healed every one of them." (KJV) Perhaps Luke wanted us to know that no sickness, and no suffering, was beyond Christ's power to heal. Some of us have experienced this in our own lives, and others have witnessed it in the lives of others.
Praise Him!

We'll conclude our study tomorrow....

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Prayer requests

Today is our prayer request day. My thoughts turned to those whose lives we touch each day: families, friends, neighbors, work associates.

As we try to influence our world for Him, do we use prayer as one of our tools?

It can affect someone deeply to hear us quietly affirm that we are praying for their health, or for a troublesome situation that they face.

It can remind someone of their need to express gratitude, when they see us bow our heads before eating our meal.

It can shape our families' lives if we pray with them, paying careful attention to the things that we know are troubling them.

As we pause to pray today, let's commit to being a prayer warrior, and also a prayer witness!

If you have a prayer request or a praise, won't you leave a comment so we can pray or rejoice with you?

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man or woman is powerful on their knees.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

Monday, June 26, 2017

Peter's mother in law

Our lady of the Bible this week is only known to us as "Peter's mother-in-law." She is mentioned in three of the gospels, so I will post one account here, and you are welcome to read the other two for your study.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:29-29)

(The other passages that we'll refer to are these: Matthew 8:14-17, and Luke 4:38-44.) Each of the gospels tells the same story, but there are particular details that matter to each author and are given, to help us get a full understanding. Isn't that awesome? (Grin)
Let's dive right in!

The story begins with Jesus casting out a demon from a man possessed. This happens in the synagogue in Capernaum. Previously, Jesus had met with opposition, in fact, down-right rejection in his home town of Nazareth. They'd been so crazed there, that they tried to push Christ off the cliff! With this rejection in the rear-view mirror, Capernaum became a place that Jesus would spend a good bit of time.
The next thing we see is Jesus and His companions walking away from the synagogue, and heading toward the home of Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew. Mark indicates that they were accompanied by James and John. As they stepped into the house, Peter and Andrew must have mentioned that Peter's mom-in-law was ill. Probably they were met by Peter's wife, and the first news she uttered would have been how her mother was doing.

They took Jesus in to the room where she was lying, and in Mark's account, he went up to her, took her hand, and raised her up. Luke's account says that Jesus "rebuked" the fever. Now, before we get all excited about the differences here, I don't believe they conflict or contradict each other. They supplement each other, and add to the richness of the Biblical story.
Each of the writers was emphasizing something different, as he told the tale. Each one chose to include or leave out certain details to emphasize a characteristic or trait of Christ, or to tell more about the situation.
The Greek word for "rebuked" is "epetimesan." It's the same word that was used to describe the time that Jesus cast out the demon in the synagogue, just a verse or two earlier:
“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” (Luke 4:35-36)

The word epetimesan carries with it the meaning of a commanding word spoken by God or by His spokesman, and evil powers are forced to submit.
Mark, who leaves this word from Jesus out of the narrative, may have wanted to point to how directly, and to the point Jesus' actions were. Most of Mark's gospel is that way -- concise, and to the point!
In the same way, while Mark simply says she suffered from a fever, Luke the physician noted it as a "great" or "high" fever. As a doctor, he wanted to call attention to the fact that it was a significant physical problem. As a doctor of that era, he commonly dealt with three kinds of fever. Malta fever was characterized by weakness, anemia, wasting away, and then death (in several months). An intermittent fever of the day was similar to what we know as "typhoid fever." The third was mosquito-borne malaria, which was a problem in the area where the Jordan meanders slowly into the Sea of Galilee. The lakeside towns had real problems with that.
So, Luke, the beloved physician who would later travel with Paul, used the technical term "megalo" which means a violent fever. We don't know the cause, but we know it was a high fever, and that she was too sick to get up. The demands of everyday life in that era meant that most people didn't have the luxury of going to bed when they felt under the weather . . . this was a serious illness.

In all three of the accounts of this miracle we have what you might call a double miracle -- first, when Jesus took her by the hand, the fever immediately was gone! Secondly, she was immediately strengthened and she rose and "served them." She was so strong and full of energy that she was able to resume her duties and offer them hospitality!

We'll learn more from Peter's mom in law next time....

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Simon's wife, conclusion

Simon the Cyrene, his wife, and his two sons have been our focus this week. Have you ever wondered about him, as he carried the cross of Christ? Was he converted at the cross?

He may have been. It's very true that he would have been there at the cross. Whether he tarried there, and was influenced by all he saw and heard, we don't know. We can only speculate -- but there's no need for argument! The manner in which Jesus behaved must have impressed Simon and his wife. Our Lord showed no fear during the ordeal. He instead modeled for us a picture of the peace that is beyond human understanding. If they remained there at the cross, they would have heard Jesus speak -- and the only times He spoke from the cross were to pray to God, or to help someone. He never railed on the soldiers, or accused them of injustice; He never responded to the mob; He never cried out to the humans there for mercy. Simon and his wife must have been changed by the experience, even if it was just that they pondered these things and talked together about them.

As people of character and great faith, if they heard Jesus pray, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," they would have realized that Jesus was willingly giving Himself. As students of the scriptures, they would have known the prophesies and hopes of the prophets. They may have recalled this passage that prophesied the Messiah:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,    he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was on him,    and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray,    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him    the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted,    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,    so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:5-7)

Over the next weeks, if not converted at the cross, their thoughts must have returned again and again to the puzzle....was Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah they'd longed for? Then on Pentecost, they heard Simon Peter, a disciple who had faltered during the ordeal, because of his fear -- now he preached boldly that this Jesus was both Lord and Christ.  Belief, hope, and joy bloomed in their hearts; they may have been among the three thousand converts on that day. They may have stepped out from the crowd and accepted baptism in water by one of the apostles, publicly acknowledging that they were ready to live for Jesus.

I would like to think that Simon and his wife established a Christian home. A home of character and faith that nurtured two boys to become Christians, and leaders of the church.
 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus,was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  (Mark 15:21)
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. (Romans 16:13)
What does all this mean to us? Have we, like Simon, taken up the cross? Have we been ready and willing to influence our families for Christ, as Simon's wife seems to have done?
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  (Luke 9:23)
The way of the cross leads to forgiveness of sin, and an abundant life in Christ -- and then to the defeat of death! Each of us is called to bear His cross. But it will not be forced on us; we take this on with willing hearts. Whatever circumstances we are burdened with, and whatever suffering we bear that we did not cause, let's bear our cross joyfully, and serve the Lord until we go to be with Him. Until that time, we can trust in His faithfulness, and know that His kindness and mercy never fails!
I gave up on life altogether.    I’ve forgotten what the good life is like.I said to myself, “This is it. I’m finished.    God is a lost cause.” I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—    the feeling of hitting the bottom.But there’s one other thing I remember,    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.They’re created new every morning.    How great your faithfulness!I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).    He’s all I’ve got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,    to the woman who diligently seeks. (Lamentations 3:17-25)

(I really like how the translation "The Message" renders this passage, so it may read a little differently than your study Bible.)

I'm pretty certain that y'all feel as I do, and we would have been glad to carry the cross. But in our lives, today, there are still opportunities to bear His cross. The cross was what it cost our Lord to do the will of the Father.
If we choose to walk in His pathway, we will bear His cross, too.
But our hope is in Him, and He will never, ever fail us!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Simon's wife, continued

When we last met, Simon was in the street near a group of soldiers, and they were clustered around a weary, beaten, and bruised man who was staggering beneath the load He was carrying: a Roman cross. One of the soldiers had grabbed Simon and ordered him to take the cross "out to the hill."

(Simon's wife resumes her story.)
Because he was a Jewish man, Simon was powerless to refuse. Roman soldiers had the authority to conscript any non-Roman -- and any time they pleased. If Simon refused, he could receive the same fate as the condemned man.  The boys and I held our breath and watched as he shouldered the cross, situating it on his strong back, and then followed the soldiers to a place that I heard people call "Golgotha." Since we were new to the city, I had no idea what they meant.

The weary, bleeding Man seemed to have no one who cared for Him except a handful of women and one man. They followed closely behind Him, sobbing and calling out to Him in low, loving words. All of the rest seemed to be more energized with hate with each step along the way. I looked again at Him. I saw Simon looking at Him, too, as they walked the narrow street and then went through the gate.
Somewhere between the city and the hill, Golgotha, Simon and I became aware of the fact that he was carrying the cross of Jesus of Nazareth. We had heard snippets and rumors about Him before. We knew that He was both loved and hated by different groups of people, and that many had been healed and freed from demons.
Those soldiers unknowingly granted my Simon a tremendous blessing. We've been told by so many Christians in the years since, that they would have been glad to carry the Master's cross. Not only did Simon bring relief to Christ, but his walk to the "place of the skull" took him to the source of real life!


Our lady we study this week was married to a man whose life was changed forever by a chance meeting in the street. If he'd walked up another street instead, he never would have met Jesus, nor would he have been mentioned in three of the four gospel accounts. I would never say that I knew for sure, but there are some clues that Simon, his wife, and his sons stayed in Jerusalem, and that they were vital in the life of the New Testament church.
Mark mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus, as if his readers would be well-acquainted with those men; and it may be that Rufus was the same man that Paul later greets in a letter, saying that he was "chosen in the Lord." (Romans 16:13)
In Luke's gospel, we read that men from Cyrene were among those converted at Pentecost, and in Acts they were scattered by the persecution in Jerusalem.
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21)

There are some things that we can learn from Simon's wife. Let's dig in, shall we?

I think that Simon and his wife were people of character.  The region they called home, Cyrene, was noted for its farming. As farmers, Simon and his wife were accustomed to hard work and long hours. They were up early, and worked hard all day. Their sons probably accompanied them to the fields, and when they were old enough, they joined in with small chores -- as they grew, their responsibilities would grow, as well. All of this meant that they were people of strength and endurance, no strangers to toil and hardship. Yet they had hope and faith, and journeyed to Jerusalem, because they heard of a community of faith there. Simon and his wife and sons would have been a marked contrast to the unruly mob, swaying this way and that, shrieking their insults and taunts at a battered Christ. The gospel of Mark seems to indicate that as Simon was "passing by" or going about his business, with a purposeful stride, he was turned from his plans by a soldier roughly commanding him to assist. These Cyrenians with character were on their way to accomplish something that day, but they would accomplish something much different than their plans.

Simon and his wife were not only people of character, but they were what we might call "innocent bystanders." Simon was now a sufferer, and his wife and sons shared this burden. Their purposeful day was interrupted by circumstances beyond their control -- a situation that they didn't choose, but could not avoid. Someone else's burden was thrust upon them . . .

....isn't that the way our lives go, sometimes? Some of our failures and disappointments in life are direct results of our own selfishness, hasty judgments made without prayer, or unwise decisions that hurt ourselves and others.
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  (Galatians 6:8)
Other times, we are caught in the consequences of someone else's lack of wisdom or sin. Simon and his wife are examples of how good people suffer -- there is a widening circle of influence, like ripples on the calm surface of a pond, from individual decisions. They certainly do influence others. The old saying "no man is an island" has been shown to be true for many years, no? It's not just my business, what I do or don't do!

Simon's story, and that of his wife with him in Jerusalem, is proof positive that when we are joined to Christ we become more than we can be by our own strength. We are more than conquerors. Their experience is an assurance for us, of God's concern for those who are required to bear burdens that they did not choose.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)
We'll see what happens in the life of Simon's wife and family as we close our study tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What are we listening to, today?

Music can be such an important part of our lives . . .

I'd like for our readers to contribute today, and leave a short note letting others know what you are listening to, today.

Are you refreshed by some old hymn?

Energized by contemporary songs?

Or soothed by quiet, and the songs of the birds around you?

Leave a comment to bless the hearts of all who pause here today!